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Balance is key for horse hoof health, nutrition

Purina Animal Nutrition and American Farriers Assn. farriers inspect horse's hoofs

The need for balance seems to arise in every aspect of horse riding and ownership. Trainers push for a balanced ride, farriers trim and shoe horses for a balanced hoof and owners aim to provide horses with the right balance of forage and feed.

“Hoof quality is determined by several factors, including genetics, environment and nutrition,” said Dr. Karen Davison, equine nutritionist at Purina Animal Nutrition. “Some horses inherit weak hooves, and that can't be changed, but proper care and nutrition can help a horse develop and maintain the best hooves genetically possible.”

The reverse is true, too: Improper care and inadequate or unbalanced nutrition can lead to hoof problems in a horse with the genes for great hooves.


Elements of nutrition

Several nutrients can influence hoof growth and quality. A well-balanced diet will contain the nutritional elements needed for optimal hoof growth, but each horse is unique, and different life stages, performance levels and lifestyles can affect hoof quality.

Some key nutrients and their impacts on hoof health include:

* Protein. The hoof structure is primarily made of the protein keratin. Methionine, an essential amino acid, is thought to be important for hoof quality. However, balance is key; if fed in excess, methionine is also believed to cause a depletion of iron, copper and zinc. This can lead to crumbling horn and white line disease.

* Fat. A diet with adequate levels of fat can be beneficial to the hoof. Fats create a permeability barrier that help prevent bacteria and fungi from entering the hoof horn.

* Zinc. Zinc is necessary for normal keratinization of the hoof. A 1973 study showed that horses with insufficient hoof horn strength had less zinc in the hoof horn than horses with healthy, undamaged horns.

* Calcium and phosphorous. Calcium is essential for proper cell attachment in the hoof horn and wall. The right ratio of calcium and phosphorous is required, though, because excess phosphorous can block the absorption of calcium, leading to weak and abnormal bones.

* Selenium and vitamin E. Selenium and vitamin E are important antioxidants for protecting cell membranes. However, the balance of intake is crucial, because selenium toxicity can cause hair loss, coronitis and coronary band bleeding, as well as sloughing of the hoof and laminitis.

* Biotin. Perhaps the most-researched vitamin for hoof growth, biotin is thought to help with hoof integrity, coat, mane and tail growth. Studies have reported varying effects, but horses with poor hoof quality despite a balanced diet and favorable environment might benefit from a therapeutic dose of biotin. Research indicates a therapeutic dose of biotin to be 15-20 mg per day.

“For the majority of horses, a diet with naturally occurring biotin, a suitable amino acid and fatty acid balance, as well as proper vitamin and mineral fortification, will support excellent hoof growth rates and quality,” Davison said.

Certified journeyman farrier Donnie Perkinson with the American Farriers Assn. added, “The foot reflects everything about the horse, and nutrition is a paramount aspect of the overall health of the horse.”

Every horse is different, and their nutritional and hoof requirements are significantly varied. Open dialogue among the farrier, veterinarian and nutritionist helps horse owners learn more about how feed affects horse health and well-being.

Iowa highlights progress, long-term challenges of stream nutrient monitoring

Iowa State University Cattle being monitored while grazing Iowa pasture

A 2016 report of Iowa’s water monitoring efforts for nutrients highlights both the complexity and long-term value of evaluating nutrient levels in Iowa’s lakes, streams and rivers, according to an announcement from Iowa State University.

Developed jointly by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with the support of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Center, the report is the first of its kind in Iowa and includes a comprehensive list of surface water monitoring efforts specific to nutrients.

The report was developed in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and is available at www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/documents underneath the heading "Supplemental Documents."

“Iowa has a comprehensive water quality monitoring effort in place that is supported by a variety of partners. Monitoring results were central to identifying the practices highlighted in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and have provided valuable information as we have established priority watersheds. It continues to be an important part of our efforts as we work to increase the pace and scale of practice adoption needed to improve water quality,” Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey said.

Water monitoring can be used for a variety of purposes and can look at a broad range of parameters. This report focused specifically on the numerous water monitoring projects for nutrients in place across Iowa to better understand the water quality status of streams and rivers, the announcement said.

The report discusses the complexity of nutrient monitoring and practices; for example, when changes are made within a target watershed, water quality improvements will likely be visible sooner in smaller watersheds compared to a larger watershed. Therefore, current monitoring efforts target a variety of scales, including:

* Large watersheds (approximately 950,000 acres, or about 2.5 counties in area). This includes Iowa DNR’s fixed-station network that monitors 60 sites across the state and the University of Iowa’s IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering management of 45 real-time monitoring stations.

* Small watersheds (approximately 22,500 acres, or about 16 per county). Several initiatives have been developed, including 18 projects with the Iowa Water Quality Initiative focused on targeted small-scale watershed areas. These focus on helping farmers implement proven conservation practices and monitoring to confirm their effectiveness.

* Paired watersheds. Two ongoing projects in Iowa look at similarly sized watersheds in which one receives targeted conservation practices and the other does not. Water monitoring at the outlet of each watershed examines the collective impact of conservation practices.

* Edge-of-field monitoring. The Iowa Soybean Assn., Iowa State University and a number of other organizations conduct monitoring at the edge of farm fields through farmer collaboration and on research sites. This scale of monitoring is used to inform, target and prioritize implementation due to ability to implement practices that can have a measurable effect in a shorter time frame.

* Even with the extensive network of water monitoring efforts in place, measuring changes in natural ecosystems presents several technical, scientific and policy challenges. The report outlines several of those complicating factors, including legacy nutrients, lag time, limitations of conservation practice data, extreme weather events, locations of monitoring sites, importance of long-term data collection and variable precipitation and stream flow.

“While challenges exist, we believe continued nutrient monitoring is critical to understanding what Iowa can do to be successful,” Iowa DNR director Chuck Gipp said. “All partners involved in developing this report know the value of long-term evaluation and are committed to continuing with a science-based approach to nutrient reduction in Iowa waters.”

The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a research- and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. Monitoring Iowa streams provides insight into measuring water quality progress and the reduction of surface water nutrient loss. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy aims to reduce the load, or amount of nutrients, lost annually from the landscape.

According to Gipp, this report serves as a means to improve the understanding of the extent of current nutrient monitoring networks in Iowa.

Agricultural producers' economic sentiment soars post-election

grain farm

Producer sentiment about the agricultural economy soared on the heels of November's presidential election, according to the December "Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer" report released Jan. 10.

The December survey results landed the barometer at an all-time high reading of 132 — a 16-point jump from the November survey. The barometer is based on a monthly survey of 400 U.S. agricultural producers.

Producer optimism surrounding both current conditions and especially future expectations drove the increase. The Index of Current Conditions rose to 102 from November's level of 87, while the Index of Future Expectations increased from 130 in November to 146 in December.


"Looking back at the data from the last several months, it's apparent that we've seen a big swing in producers' expectations about the future," said James Mintert, barometer principal investigator and director of Purdue's Center for Commercial Agriculture. "Although both the Current Conditions and Future Expectations indices increased the last couple of months, it was the increase in the Index of Future Expectations, which jumped 51 points since October to reach an all-time high in December, that triggered the sharp rise in the barometer."

Producers' improving sentiment doesn't seem to be driven by changes in corn and soybean prices, Mintert said. For example, March 2017 Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) corn futures were slightly weaker during the November and December survey periods than during the October survey. On the soybean side, January 2017 CBOT futures were unchanged in November and were only slightly stronger in December than those during the October survey collection period.

Additionally, improved economic sentiment extends beyond just agriculture, said David Widmar, senior research associate and leader of research activities for the barometer. In October and December, producers were asked about their expectations for the broader U.S. economy, and the results were surprising.

"The contrast in sentiment from the October survey — three weeks prior to the U.S. elections — and the December survey — five weeks after the elections — is remarkable," Widmar said.

When asked about their expectations for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months, only 13% of respondents in the October survey said they expected it to expand, while 23% said they expected it to contract. In the December survey, half of the respondents expected economic expansion, and only 13% expected contraction in the year ahead.

"The improvement in optimism regarding the U.S. economy among agricultural producers appears to parallel that of U.S. consumers," Widmar said.

The University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment confirmed that observation, with a rise from 87 in October to a 12-year high of 98 in December.

Read the full December Ag Economy Barometer report, including producer sentiment about the next five years and the health of their operations, at http://purdue.edu/agbarometer.

Routine surveillance finds avian flu virus in Montana

As part of a national routine surveillance program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Jan. 9 that it has detected the presence of Eurasian/North American reassortant H5N2 avian influenza in a wild mallard duck in Fergus County, Mont. No illness or mortalities in domestic poultry in the U.S. have been detected.

The sample, taken from a hunter-harvested bird, was tested at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and forwarded to USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Characterization of the sample is ongoing.

“This appears to be one of the strains we saw during the outbreak in 2014 and 2015,” USDA chief veterinarian Dr. Jack Shere said. “This finding serves as a powerful reminder that there is still avian influenza circulating in wild birds, and producers and industry need to continue to be vigilant about biosecurity to protect domestic poultry.”

Wild migratory waterfowl are a natural reservoir for avian influenza, and these viruses can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention considers the risk to the general public from these H5 HPAI infections to be low. No human infections have occurred in the U.S. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165°F kills bacteria and viruses, including avian influenza.

The U.S. has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

Anyone involved with poultry production, from small backyard to large commercial producers, should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. To facilitate such a review, a biosecurity self-assessment can be found at www.uspoultry.org/animal_husbandry/intro.cfm.

USDA recently launched "Defend the Flock," a new educational campaign that provides commercial poultry owners and growers, as well as the poultry industry and federal/state/local animal health officials, resources to help ensure that the best biosecurity practices are used to protect commercial flocks from infectious disease. Defend the Flock information can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock.

Hunters should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread. Biosecurity information for hunters is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/2015/fsc_hpai_hunters.pdf.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at (866) 536-7593.

USDA seeks dismissal of pork trademarks lawsuit

pork chop

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against the agency over the the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) sale of the "Pork. The Other White Meat" trademarks to the National Pork Board. NPPC sold the trademarks to the Pork Board in 2006 for about $35 million, financing the purchase over 20 years and making the board’s annual payment $3 million.

“The sale was an arm's-length transaction with a lengthy negotiation in which both parties were represented by legal counsel, and USDA — which oversees the federal pork checkoff program administered by the Pork Board — approved the purchase,” NPPC said.

The lawsuit against USDA was filed in 2012 by HSUS, a lone Iowa farmer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, alleging that the trademarks were overvalued and seeking to have the sale rescinded.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the suit for lack of standing, but a federal appeals court reinstated it in August 2015, sending the case back to the district court. Before any proceedings could proceed on the merits of the lawsuit, however, USDA entered into settlement talks with HSUS.

USDA conducted a valuation of the trademarks, finding the worth between $113 million and $132 million. Despite the nearly four-fold increase in value, HSUS decided, after conducting its own valuation, to continue the lawsuit.

In its a motion for summary judgment filed with U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, NPPC said USDA argued that the HSUS lawsuit lacks merit, is barred by the six-year statute of limitations, that the plaintiffs failed to establish standing to file the lawsuit or show that they were harmed by the sale of the "Pork. The Other White Meat" trademarks and that the agency’s evaluation of the sale of the trademarks showed that they provided significant value to the pork industry.

Industry survey takes pulse of U.S. pork production

Scott Olson_Getty Images News hogs huddled together at hog farm

U.S. pork producers are not only well aware of new federal rules for on-farm antibiotic use, but they already are complying. In a survey conducted by the National Pork Board (NPB) in November, 95% of producers surveyed said they were ready to be fully compliant by the time the rules took effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

“The pork industry worked toward the Jan. 1 implementation date for nearly two years. There was a concern that some producers would not make changes until after the date of implementation, but that does not seem to be the case,” said NPB president Jan Archer, a pork producer from Goldsboro, N.C.

In addition to information about antibiotic use changes, NPB’s annual November survey was designed to take the pulse of U.S. pork production.

The survey showed that for the seventh consecutive year, pork producer support for the pork checkoff increased and is now at a record 91%, up 1% from the 2015 survey. Meanwhile, opposition to the checkoff remains at a record low 4%. These results are the most positive in the history of the survey.

Other highlights included:

  • Right direction/wrong track - 76% of producers said the industry is heading “in the right direction,” improving from the previous year’s score of 70%. Of those surveyed, 19% feel that the industry is “on the wrong track.” This improvement in optimism is encouraging despite the market supply pressure many are feeling with lower prices for pigs.
  • The biggest challenge facing producers is “too many rules/regulations.” In previous years, the main challenge was viewed as “managing hog health and disease.” That previously number-one concern fell to number four this year - a significant drop.
  • Producers’ single most important request of the checkoff is to educate consumers on pork production and the industry. This was followed closely by advertising and promoting pork and opening new markets.

“America’s pig farmers understand that growing domestic and export demand for pork is critical, but it all starts with building trust,” Archer said. “This survey bears out that it begins with educating consumers about how pigs are raised, pork’s safety and its nutritional value.”

In response to specific questions about NPB’s strategic plan implemented early in 2015, the awareness and importance of each goal (on a 10-point scale) remains strong:

  • "Build consumer trust" rated a mean score of 8.91 (a decrease from 9.04 in 2015).
  • "Grow consumer demand" rated a mean score of 8.70 (an increase from 8.63 in 2015).
  • "Drive sustainable production" rated a mean score of 8.18 (an increase from 7.96 in 2015).

“Clearly, the implementation of the strategic plan is aligned with the concerns, interests and thoughts of producers,” Archer said. “Pig farmers tell us that their investment in the pork checkoff is at work, with 17 defined objectives directly supporting each of the three goals.”

This most recent national survey is based on phone interviews with 550 producers across the country.

APHIS confirms New World screwworm on mainland Florida

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed Jan. 9 the presence of New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) in a stray dog near Homestead, Fla. The dog was isolated, his infested wounds were treated and he is now in good health. Federal and state officials have started active surveillance in the area.

APHIS said this is the first confirmed case of New World screwworm on Florida’s mainland. Screwworm was first confirmed on Oct. 3, 2016, in Key deer from National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, Fla. This initial presence of screwworm was the first local detection in the U.S. in more than 30 years and Florida commissioner of agriculture Adam Putnam declared an agricultural state of emergency in Monroe County, Fla., where the refuge is located.

Since October, 13 keys had known infestations mostly in the Key deer population, with five confirmed infestations in domesticated animals. Animal health and wildlife officials at the state and federal levels have been working aggressively to eradicate this pest. Extensive response efforts have included fly assessments to determine the extent of the infestation, release of sterile flies to prevent reproduction and disease surveillance to look for additional cases in animals. Officials have received significantly fewer reports of adult screwworm flies in the area and fewer cases of infected Key deer.

To date, fly assessments have been conducted on 40 keys. USDA has released more than 80 million sterile flies from 25 ground release sites on 12 islands and the city of Marathon. The initial epidemiology report on the Florida Keys infestation may be viewed at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/stakeholders/downloads/2017/nws-epi-report.pdf.

Residents who have warm-blooded animals (pets, livestock, etc.) should watch their animals carefully. Florida residents should report any potential cases to 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352); non-Florida residents should call (850) 410-3800. Visitors to the area should ensure any pets that are with them are also checked in order to prevent the spread of this infestation.

While human cases of New World screwworm are rare, they have occurred, and public health officials are involved in the response. No human cases have been reported in Florida. Using fly repellents and keeping skin wounds clean and protected from flies can help prevent infection with screwworm in both people and animals.

New World screwworm are fly larvae (maggots) that can infest livestock and other warm-blooded animals. They most often enter an animal through an open wound and feed on the animal’s living flesh. While they can fly much farther under ideal conditions, adult flies generally do not travel more than a couple of miles if there are suitable host animals in the area. New World screwworm is more likely to spread long distances when infested animals move to new areas and carry the pest there, APHIS said.

In the 1950s, USDA developed a new method to help eradicate screwworm using a form of biological control, called the sterile insect technique, which releases infertile flies into infested areas. When they mate with wild females, no offspring result. With fewer fertile mates available in each succeeding generation, the fly, in essence, breeds itself out of existence. USDA used this technique to eradicate screwworms from the U.S. and worked with other countries in Central America and the Caribbean to eradicate the pest there as well. Today, USDA and its partners maintain a permanent sterile fly barrier at the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia to prevent the establishment of any screwworm flies that enter from South America.

USPOULTRY releases new video series highlighting environmental stewardship

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. (USPOULTRY) announced that it is releasing a new video series highlighting companies with exemplary performance at water reclamation facilities serving the poultry industry. The first video in the series features one of USPOULTRY’s Clean Water Award winners, Simmons Foods Inc. of Southwest City, Mo.

Simmons Foods’ Southwest City Complex processes and treats an average wastewater flow of 2.28 million gal. per day. The facility currently converts dissolved air flotation (DAF) skimmings into a valuable ingredient that is used in the production of high-fat, high-protein, high-value cattle feed. This process allows more than 130 million lb. of material to be recycled into the food chain each year rather than being land applied.

The Southwest City Complex rendering facility also utilizes roughly 5,000 boiler horse power of thermal oxidizing technology to reduce odor emissions. The thermal oxidizers are a European technology, with Simmons Foods being the first to use this technology at a rending plant in the U.S. One highlight of the operation is the facility’s water reuse program. The Southwest City Complex recycles between 300,000 and 350,000 gal. per day, or 18% of the total flow, of treated effluent for use at the complex. The recycled water has greatly reduced the volume Simmons Foods pumps from the Gasconade aquifer. The facility has been recycling its treated effluent since 1996, with the total volume of recycled water equaling approximately 2 billion gal.

“Our company strives to ensure that we exercise the best environmental management practices possible,” Simmons Foods’ chairman Mark Simmons said.

USPOULTRY president  John Starkey said, “USPOULTRY and our members realize the importance of exemplary environmental stewardship by recognizing excellence in environmental programs at our member companies. We are pleased to be able to provide a video series that highlights how our member companies achieve this.”

The video can be viewed on USPOULTRY’s YouTube Channel by clicking here or on USPOULTRY’s website at www.uspoultry.org.

Bunge to improve soybean processing footprint in eastern Corn Belt

Bunge North America, the North American operating arm of Bunge Ltd., recently announced that it plans to take steps to improve the productivity of its leading soybean processing footprint in the eastern U.S. The plan includes building Bunge's first new processing plant in the U.S. in 15 years.  Locations in Ohio and Indiana are under final consideration for the new facility, the company said.

"As we evaluate the long-term demand for soy products, we see the need to improve our asset footprint in the eastern U.S., a key market," said Tim Gallagher, executive vice president, oilseed value chain, Bunge North America. "A state-of-the-art facility in the eastern Corn Belt that incorporates the latest productivity, safety and sustainability features, combined with an increase in overall efficiency of our existing footprint, will ensure Bunge can serve growing demand in the southeastern U.S. feed and export markets."

Once site selection is completed, Bunge will need to obtain necessary approvals to move forward with the project, which is expected to go on line by the end of 2019.